Dubbed Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations, the latest exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute features a stylish face-off between two of fashion’s most iconoclastic icons: Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada.
Both women are Italian and known for their fiercely feminist outlooks and their artistic, sometimes surreal approach to fashion design (witness the late Schiaparelli’s famous shoe hat or Kissing Faces coat and Prada’s otherworldly spangled or fur creations).
The exhibit plays up these similarities through three main ideas: Hard Chic, Ugly Chic, and Naif Chic, organized into three themes: the Classical Body, Exotic Body, and Surreal Body. It also tackles the women’s differences: Schiap (as she was known) concentrated on designs that highlighted the female form from the waist up, while Prada focuses on showcasing the body from the waist down (think of all those crazy Prada shoes). Another big difference: Schiaparelli viewed fashion as an art form, while Miuccia Prada, most emphatically, does not. This is where the “Impossible Conversations” part of the exhibit comes into play, a title that also references the eight short videos, directed by Baz Lurhmann, that feature Miuccia and Elsa (played by Judy Davis) discussing their lives and work, while mannequins wearing their creations stand in mirrored glass cases wearing sometimes pretty, sometimes scary masks and headpieces by Guido Palau.
At Monday night’s gala celebrating the exhibit, celebs like Sofia Vergara, Amy Adams, Sarah Jessica Parker, Deborah Messing, and Lea Michele went the traditional (read: pretty) red carpet route, with no OTT shoe hats on display (sigh). But several guests – including Emily Blunt, Karlie Kloss, Jenna Lyons, and Coco Rocha – looked pretty in pink, a sartorial nod to Schiaparelli’s famous shade of fuchsia. Co-chair Carey Mulligan wore a metal Prada dress, while Anna Wintour donned Miuccia’s reinterpretation of Schiap’s infamous lobster gown, both of which managed to feel sophisticated and surreal.
And for those who aren’t familiar with the late designer’s legacy, fret not. It was just announced that Tod’s honcho Diego Della Valle plans to relaunch the Schiaparelli brand early next year, with a focus on fragrance, accessories, cosmetics and clothing.
Looks like fashion’s about to get a lot more interesting.
Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute from May 10th through August 19, 2012.
Lauren David Peden writes for Rue La La as a Contributing Editor.
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